So, Indian kids hate Saltines. Let’s just get that out of the way first. Like, in a big way, they HATE them.
We found out this hard lesson in just about the worst way we could’ve given the circumstances. During the General Assembly, we were performing the skit of Jesus feeding the 5,000. This skit has always been interactive, but today we decided to take it to a whole ‘notha level. Instead of acting out/miming giving away food to the children, we thought we would add a sense of realism by handing out saltines. See, we bought a bulk arena-pack of saltine crackers in anticipation of potential upset stomachs as has been the case every year thus far. But praise God for His provision and favor regarding our health - we’ve had no major issues at all. But this leaves us with about 400 saltines that we have no intention of bringing home. So, we opted to go the route of giving the kids something to eat (as they were the crowd) so that they really felt a part of what we were doing. Great idea on paper.
What that paper doesn’t reveal is that, oh yeah, Indian kids hate saltines. Thinking about it, I guess I can understand that. I mean, they aren’t really tasty and they dry you out and…I don’t know the rest. But I’m sure there are other reasons. So, here we are acting out one of Jesus’ more famous miracles and right at the height of the “big reveal”, kids start getting up and walking out. In droves. All headed directly to the source of their drinking water. At least half the room cleared out before the rest decided to follow suit. It was painful. And hilarious. Hopefully the real message got across instead of “Jesus will take your gifts and turn it into something that will make you throw up.” I’d like to think it did.
However, while that element of the Assembly didn’t go so well - AT ALL - we had the opportunity to break into three classes and your Impact India team taught them all. It went really well. It was great to be able to pull out the ol’ feltboard and give the kids old school VBS. What was amazing is how invested the kids got into the stories. I had the privilege of “felting” (that’s a new verb that no one is using - yet) the story of Paul’s conversion. The kids seemed pretty into it - more than I was anticipating. My team had Hot James translating for us and he killed it. I have to say, one of the biggest answers to prayer this year is that we have an abundance of fully qualified translators. Last year, this wasn’t the case and when ministry responsibilities pulled David away, we had to lead the kids…without an interpreter. But this year, we are blessed so much by them, it’s ridiculous. After our VBS session today, Hot James and I were taking some village kids back to their village. I asked him how he thought this VBS was going and if we were even doing what was needed. His response killed me. He told me that as he translated the story and we were asking questions about the story, the kids gave some very revealing answers. First, these kids had no idea what a missionary is. Not even a guess. I explained the purpose of a missionary and used that to springboard into the story of Paul’s conversion experience.
Yet, the thing that struck me the most was when Hot James said that these kids had also never heard of Paul. PAUL?! It’s, like, really hard to read the Bible and not see Paul in it. This is just another example of the spiritual poverty - the drought - that is taking place in these villages. Even as these children profess a love for Christ, their knowledge of Him and His work are so undeveloped. Yet, they have an intense passion for the word of God. It’s absolutely amazing. When we quote the Bible verses in Tamil, they absorb it and immediately memorize it and start reciting it back to us. They long for the word of God like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It is inspiring.
Two stories and then I’m going to go pass out. First, I forgot to tell you about an experience from Sunday morning that blew my mind.. Leslie has perfected the “Geode” presentation and she was plugging right along giving her demonstration. She shows that inside a filthy rock, a beautiful crystallized middle portion is visible. She teaches that in the same way, when Christ’s body was broken, only then was His true glory revealed. But here’s where our minds - or at least mine - was blown. In talking about suffering, she mentions how she doesn’t wake up every day asking God to make her suffer, but lives in the knowledge that she can trust Him. Yet, when Leslie asked how many kids look forward to suffering, I was so surprised. Dozens of hands, almost all of them, went up. I was scratching my head for a few seconds. Then the needle in my brain’s record player scratched because David indicated that the children raising their hands was not a mistake - they legitimately told us that they “were ready to suffer on account of Jesus”. This breaks my heart because, in this culture, they will. And yet, young children had the mindset that they are ready to give their all to Jesus, no matter what. Fortunately, Leslie was able to regain her momentum after being thrown that GIGANTIC curveball. But the words of those kids are still ringing in my ears.
Secondly, tonight in our group share time Leslie shared an experience from her small group class. All week, we will be teaching about Paul and how Christ changed his life. Looking at different stories in Paul’s ministry, we will be ramming home the theme that in Christ, we don’t have to fear anything. So, to kick off the session, Leslie asked the kids to just list things that scare them. She anticipated more “childlike” answers, but instead was immediately confronted with the spiritual reality here. One child answered, “Satan”. Not death. Not starvation or going without water. The main concern and fear is the spiritual reality that everyone is aware of here. Given the chance to answer the question like, say, a kid, the children answered with what they confront everyday. What’s in front of them and what’s all around them. This is so revealing to me because we, as Americans, don’t walk around with this kind of awareness. But these kids do. Everyday. This just seems so wrong for kids to even answer this way - yet it’s a reminder of why we go and love on the kids we’ve seen. Even the ones that look sharp and seem committed to God often come from Hindu homes and are more confused than anyone. But little by little, the light of Christ is breaking through. We need to be praying for these kids whose whole world is this type of spiritual warfare everyday. Again, we show up to serve and instead we are taught, encouraged and reminded of how God is fighting for this generation.
And we are, too, which is why I wanted to ask for your prayers. We sense God moving in a big way here, but we don’t totally know what that looks like yet. Tomorrow, Pops and I are heading out to Ippedu - Mission Center #3 - to take a small part in their VBS. The trip has dual purposes - one, to encourage and support the work going on there and 2) to see about how/what our partnership with David Rajan could look like in the future. We desperately want to discern God’s leading here and we ask for your help in seeking God together.
Also, please pray for these things:
1) Strength and rest. I know I ask for this first everyday. It’s because we desperately need it.
2) For the children in these villages to not be overwhelmed by the dark and evil spirits around them.
3) For discernment, wisdom and creativity in trying to know how God is leading and what we could do to continue to impact this great country.
4) For an extra dose of grace, patience and love so that these kids know how special to us.
I apologize for the brevity of this blog - I can’t see straight. I’ve literally had to fix every third sentence because the sentences aren’t making sense anymore. We love you guys and can’t wait to finish strong! Pray for us!
Oh, and Annette Spain. Tonight, Matt tried to talk Hot James into letting him ride on the top of the van on some mattresses. I put that down and told him “No”. I will return him to you alive and unmarried, but just very barely.